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June 14, 2006

Comments

I thought Mona's post was very good. It's a shame so much of the audience chose to attack her as a suspected partisan in sheep's clothing than to engage her argument on the merits.

In the short term, libertarians can either cast a principled yet meaningless vote for a pure libertarian candidate, or they can choose whichever one of the two imperfect parties is closer to their philosophy. I think there's good evidence that the Democrats, in the here and now, are that party.

But in the long term, obviously we all want to do more than just settle. If we had a parliamentary system of government, perhaps the libertarians could form a majority government with the Dems and achieve some of their goals that way. But even in our two-party system, the process isn't much different. The libertarians, who are being very poorly served by the current government, have an opportunity to reach out to the minority party and say, "Hey guys, sick of losing? Our votes are here for the taking, but you have to start looking at things from our perspective." And thus they begin the process of moving one of the two major parties closer and closer to their own point of view.

I don't think Democrats will ever embrace the libertarian philosophy 100%, of course. But there are a lot of signficiant areas, like drug policy reform, where the Democrats are certainly persuadable to the libertarian point of view even though they'd be unlikely to just wander there on their own.

There are a lot of good ideas to be shared. It's a genuine pleasure to see operations like Cato and Daily Kos having open, highbrow discussions about policy and philosophy to see if there's common ground. It feels like, on some level, this is how democracy ought to operate.

Most libertarian critiques of government tend (in my experience) to downplay the desirability of honesty anc ompetence. There's a gut assumption that things will end up sucking horribly and that this is innate to the nature of the state and/or large organizations. When it fuels skeptical examination, it can be valuable - Cato Institute's published some great writing about structural waste, for instance. When it leads to the refusal to acknowledge actual differences, then it becomes one more hidebound ideology.

I have the impression that a lot of my libertarian friends are still in something like concept shock from how thoroughly wierdly bad the Bush administration became. It doesn't fit typical libertarian expectations, and it takes time to assimilate new realities into one's established conceptual and rhetorical rhythm. Bush I and Clinton provided potent fodder for the idea that the two parties are roughly similar from the point of view of liberty maximization, and that voting for either will give you a semi-centrist bunch of technocrats. Obviously that no longer holds, but it's hard to shake a strongly held idea.

(I admit that I'm much less sympathetic to struggles about this stuff now, too, than I was in, oh, 2002-3.)

I find both your post and Mona's interesting and am still mulling over the content as well as attempting to assimilate Tristero's concerns.

That said, the one idea that really jumped to mind after reading her post and all her comments was how every time I go following some link to another site and read through a post and comments section, I end up longing to be back home at ObWi.

We have our rough patches with civility in discourse here, but when I see how routine other sites (liberal and conservative both) consider partisan mudslinging and general nastiness, I remember how well our site maintains good behavior. So basically, mad props to the moderators for their evenhanded but firm enforcement of good standards of behavior.

However, in the actual world, in which Democrats reduce the size of government while Republicans expand it, and Democrats spend a lot of time actually working on improving efficiency while Republicans do not, I think that if I were a libertarian, I would probably favor the first party.

What makes this situation confusing, for a disillusioned Democrat like me who leans heavily libertarian, is that while it has been conclusively proven that Bill Clinton, with a divided Congress, does all of the good things you mentioned, Democrats refuse to embrace it as stated policy. You won't hear campaigning Democrats talking about reducing the size of the Government - instead they'll be touting new gigantic programs that the repeal of tax cuts will pay for. Same goes for deficit reduction - the solution is raising taxes, and apparently we're supposed to ignore the massive new expenditures they want. Never mind that neither party has dared started talking about paying down the damn debt.

I'm tired of playing the wink-wink nudge-nudge game with Democrats - saying one thing during campaigns to the more leftish base, then sometimes doing another to appease more centrist DLC power players. Neither side is particularily happy, and it's impossible to predict what Democrats will do. I can't shake the suspicion that were the situation reversed - Democratic control of the White House, the House & Senate, and Judiciary dominance - we'd be witnessing a balls-out socialism spree. No one need worry - this suspicion hasn't driven me to vote for Republicans, despite the fact that this is one of the sales pitches they seem to like to give.

I don't vote for parties anymore; I vote for people. I absolutely refuse to collate my vote so as to ensure party dominance of either party.

Not that I've done that a great deal in the past, mind you, but I have on occasion turned up my nose at Democrats when it was even close to a tossup, rather than taking a closer look.

Social Democrats, USA 815 15th Street, NW Suite 511 Washington, DC 2005 Copyright: 1996, SD, USA

Splitting the Republican Coalition

Irving Kristol is a leading spokesman among neoconservatives. He co-edits the Public Interest, a journal that is often an excellent source on political and economic matters. Kristol did a piece for the Wall Street Journal in June called "Times of Transformation." In it he delivers a seminal analysis of the current political scene. The article, although not so intended, suggests a winning strategy for Democrats.

Kristol points out that the conservative revolution in the Republican Party occurred in 1964 when Rockefeller lost the presidential nomination. He argues that the liberal revolution captured the Democratic Party in 1972 with the nomination of George McGovern.

Kristol described the current Republican coalition as consisting primarily of two main strains: economic and social conservatives. The economic conservatives are anti-state and the social conservatives are anti-liberal who view liberalism "as corroding and subverting the virtues that they believe must be the bedrock of decent society." He believes that the differences between the economic conservatives and the social conservatives produce "tensions" between the two groups. Kristol's long range view is that the social conservatives represent "an authentic mass movement that gathers strength with every passing year."

more... http://www.socialdemocrats.org/miller.html

I don't vote for parties anymore; I vote for people. I absolutely refuse to collate my vote so as to ensure party dominance of either party.

I vote for people rather than parties Nationally. I'm not usually treated to a choice - i.e. a better Republican candidate. The party machines here in NY are absolutely insane - and the Republican one has an extra dose of political incompetence going for it.

Municipally, however, I tend to vote against Democrats twice: once against incumbents in the primary, and then against the Democrat in the General Election. (For Crackpot parties and candidates, usually.) There is nearly no one as despotic and corrupt as the Democrats that run inner cities.

What Gore did was not so much Reinventing Governmnent as Giving Government A Badly-Needed Pedicure. Not putting it down, but what we wound up with was the exact same government with freshly shaven legs and wearing a new dress. Reinvention would be something decidedly more drastic, and probably wouldn't be possible.

I hadn't been aware of this as so much of a coordinated effort before. Gore deserves much credit for trying, given that he was really never going to be able to claim any. If Americans wanted efficient government, they're sure not voting that way.

For what it's worth, I'm pretty disappointed with the commenters, too. I've come to believe that a lot of Republicans take offense to the notion of a strategic libertarian alliance with Democrats not because they think it's bad for our interests in liberty, but because they think it's bad for their interests in the Republican Party.

It's a team sport, and they're just defending the home team against potential heretics. I think the same reaction obtains towards many black Republicans.

I understand pragmatism in the interest of progress, but it strikes me now that continued dedication to a Republican majority is much better for the Republican majority than for liberty. I don't think the Democratic Party is conducive to a permanent libertarian home because of the very anti-libertarian economic interests of many members of their coalition, but it's clear that the current Republican manifestation ain't cutting it, either, and there's only one party to stop them.

It may be that the ideal long-term libertarian strategy is to work for divided government, no matter who they have to vote for to get it. My Law of Politics: the party out of power is always somewhat libertarian, if only to obstruct the party in power. The party in power is always anti-libertarian, if only because hey, cool, power!

One flaw, or at least omission, in your argument is that it's really addressed only to the subset of libertarians who are either (1) significantly oppressed by current policies, or (2) care enough about the oppression of others under current policies to vote on that basis.

But there are plenty of libertarian-inclined types out there who, say, (a) aren't gay, (b) don't do drugs beyond a little pot now and then, (c) aren't worried about abortion because of Roe and because they'd have the money to get one if necessary, (e) own guns, smoke, and do other things that Democrats might like to restrict or ban, and (f) don't especially like paying taxes.

Someone like that would have reason to vote Democrat only if he/she puts a pretty high value on other people's freedom not being restricted. And it's not clear how often that's the case, given that libertarianism (in practice) overlaps quite a bit (far from entirely) with the view that "I should act in my own interests when they conflict with the interests of others."

Christopher M: well, yeah, I was addressing the principled libertarians... ;)

It's really interesting to think about a coalition between libertarians and liberals, but there's a big monkey wrench: health coverage. Universal health insurance *is* going to happen. It's going to be the wedge that makes it impossible for libertarians to work with liberals.

I'm not sure that logically follows, Josh. If universal health care is going to happen (and I concur with your assessment), then hilzoy's arguments still hold up. Is it better to have universal health care that works (as much as it can, that is), or to have universal health care that is solely a drain on the treasury with no redeeming features? I'm not saying I'm ready to go register as a Democrat, but I don't think health care is going to be sufficient to prevent me from doing so if I decide it's the right way to go.

The comments at Q&O didn't really address how Libertarians think about the central thesis raised in Hilzoy's post.

Athough Mona linked to one of these threads in her post it may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

For those interested, here are links to the pertinent Reason discussions which were motivated by the Daily Kos post in which Moulitsas claimed he was a "Libertarian Democrat".

http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2006/06/libertarians_ma.shtml#comments

http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2006/06/common_kos.shtml

http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2006/06/how_to_be_a_hal.shtml


On a related note, Reason's Ron Bailey recently explained how he is voting Democrat for only the second time in his life to ensure government gridlock. It seems that no party is to be trusted to their ideals of limited government when tempted by having gained control of both the legislature and the executive.

Over at Catallarchy, they are skeptical to say the least.

This conversation's been going on for some time over at Jim Henley's blog. He seems to be trying to find a principled liberal libertarian stance, while I would hope that libertarians would, at least in 2006 and 2008, vote pragmatically. (In other words, what Steve said in the first comment here.)

Interesting post. However, persuading us to not support Republicans (I haven't voted for one in over 20 yrs) and persuading us to support Democrats are two different things. There are other alternatives, most notably simply staying home on election day, but also including the LP. Under these conditions, being somewhat better than the Republicans (and you certainly are) isn't enough.

The other thing to realize is that there are several varieties of libertarians, who want the same end result but for very different reasons, and hope to get there in different ways. At lot of libertarians would agree with you that, for example, if you're going to have a large, expensive public school system, it might as well be a good one.

However, there are others that don't care about, or even want, substandard public schools, because that is a way to undermine support for them - the old "starve the peasants so they will revolt" strategy. Personally I feel that's immoral, but nonetheless it represents some fraction of libertarians. They might not be quite so blunt or extreme about it, but there is that general tendency.


Slarti,

You might actually be the idealist in this conversation (as opposed to me.)

What Gore did was not so much Reinventing Governmnent as Giving Government A Badly-Needed Pedicure. Not putting it down, but what we wound up with was the exact same government with freshly shaven legs and wearing a new dress. Reinvention would be something decidedly more drastic, and probably wouldn't be possible.

If you look at the percentage of GDP consumed by Government Spending, putting Bush vs. Clinton, Clinton brings a nostalgic tear to my eye. If anything, it seems like you're vulnerable to the "effective government" technocratic fantasy Hilzoy is mentioning - I am too, on a good day.

Jonas: "while it has been conclusively proven that Bill Clinton, with a divided Congress, does all of the good things you mentioned, Democrats refuse to embrace it as stated policy."

Actually, Clinton and Gore ran on (among other things) 'Reinventing Government' in '92, and started work on it more or less immediately -- which is to say, two years before the GOP took the House. Likewise, the federal workforce started falling dramatically in '93, not '95. These being my two main examples, I don't think what you say is right.

"Likewise, the federal workforce started falling dramatically in '93, not '95."

Wasn't that almost exclusively military?

Is there a difference between Democrats and Republicans on drug policy? Seems like Democrats have been afraid for a long time of making changes in that area (don't want to be called soft on crime, after all), and it's presumably one reason libertarians haven't seen a reason to vote for them.

Hilzoy,

Actually, Clinton and Gore ran on (among other things) 'Reinventing Government' in '92, and started work on it more or less immediately -- which is to say, two years before the GOP took the House. Likewise, the federal workforce started falling dramatically in '93, not '95. These being my two main examples, I don't think what you say is right.

You're right - although I think that a hostile congress is a huge factor - I don't think Welfare reform would have happened otherwise. That being said, that talk from Clinton & Gore in '92 was why they enthusiastically got my vote as a member of the Tsongas personality cult both in '92 and '96. My tepid and half-hearted vote for Gore, after being all Shrumed up in 2000, is nothing to be particularily proud of.

All I am asking for is the '92 campaign again. That's it. No wierd, creepy Gore2000/Kerry2004 economic talk.

KCinDC,

Is there a difference between Democrats and Republicans on drug policy?

Not much. Some Democrats support medicinal marijuana - with not much fervor. Democrats & Republicans are on the conventional wisdom page with this one - indulge the majority of the public (despite the fact that the majority has done illegal drugs, unlike myself) in their "Pot & maybe Acid for me, but not for thee" policy.

Hilzoy- A good post as usual, I'm not sure its likely to have any useful effect though. As far as I know Phil and I are the only libertarian regulars here, and I and IIRC Phil already vote Democratic.

In hindsight I feel that voting libertarian was just a juvinile gesture on my part. Now I feel that I have to vote Democratic or share responsibility for what the Evil party does.

KCinDC- The Reps and the Dems don't quite have the same policy on drugs as Ashcroft and the Bush justice dept felt they could use drug laws to nulify Oregon's assisted suicide law. Google Ashcroft+"assisted suicide" for the details.

I have been Googling, looking for figures on the size of the Federal civilian workforce (to answer Seb's question), specifically early on in the Clinton presidency (anticipating questions on the impact of 1994). Voila! (pdf; see Table 2.) The civilian workforce decreased in 1993, 1994, and 1995 (i.e., Clinton's first 3 years.)

As a per capita measure of any benchmark anyone wishes to use (ie, absolute government expenditures, tax receipts, GNP, infation adjusted anything) the real level of the Federal workforce has dropped and even (bodies versus output) been reduced drastically over time, before anyone began using the empty phrase (reinvention of government).

How many Federal employees ("I don't know, tell us, John, says Gary Farber" ;)) were there in 1955, 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995 and last year?

Who doesn't like efficiency? But what is it, exactly? Absolute full employment falls under my measures of efficiency for the government as well as the private sector. Unemployed people may be a lot of things, but efficient is not one of them.

If that isn't true, then please let us all feel free to quit our jobs. Think of the money we'll save.

As far as the point of this fine post, let me know how close libertarians get to my positions on items such as Social Security, Medicare, etc. and I'll let you know how big of a table we need for the next Party meeting.

Efficiency might mean delivering services at lower cost. I suspect efficiency to some libertarians means not delivering services, which would require zero employees.

But, yeah, neither I nor any libertarian I know wants the NSA listening to our phone calls to those Pakistani porn merchants.

I know who you are!

Incidentally, my idea of an efficient world is me having lots of money to buy only the things I require from, I don't know, 15 multi-talented craftmen or craftswomen (not Michelle Malkin). Tough luck for everyone else.

KCinDC- The Reps and the Dems don't quite have the same policy on drugs as Ashcroft and the Bush justice dept felt they could use drug laws to nulify Oregon's assisted suicide law. Google Ashcroft+"assisted suicide" for the details.

Frank - that's a good point, the words of the parties aren't that far apart when it comes to drugs, [to avoid the silly 'soft on crime' label. Drugs are almost certainly in the class of malum prohibitum, illegal because there's a law, not malum in se like, e.g. murder - so legalization isn't 'soft on crime' it's simply a different arbitrary definition of criminality. To my mind, a far more rational arbitraty line at that. But I digress] but there is significantly more zeal for enforcement under R then D, it would seem.

In hindsight I feel that voting libertarian was just a juvinile gesture on my part. Now I feel that I have to vote Democratic or share responsibility for what the Evil party does.

Frank - it's true, on the one hand, that if the LP vote had gone to Democrats in 2000, Al Gore would now be President. On the other hand, if Al Gore was now President, hilzoy and others probably wouldn't see a need to cater to libertarians, so holding out for the LP had one of the desired effects - putting pressure on the major parties. Of course it appears now to any sane person that avoiding GWB would be worth any sacrifice, but that was a lot harder to see back in 2000.

Just for the record here's what it would take to get me to switch LP -> D. A presidential nominee who (1) is stridently anti-war, (2) promises that under any universal health care system, basic freedoms such the right to refuse treatment and seek care outside the system (while still paying in, of course) would be respected with bill-of-rights level legal guarantees, and (3) doesn't have an extended record of lying.

Pretty reasonable?

Oops....add (4) no immigrant bashing.

Drat! John Thullen who usually amuses me (yes very like a clown) annoys me into remembering how the Bush administration validates libertarianism.

If liberals hadn't successfullybuilt a large and effective state that we depend on for many things, including disaster relief and retirement, a mere bad ruler would be much less of a threat to our way of life. If the US government weren't such a large and otherwise successfull concern the Republicans would never have been able to take all of us into debt to the tune of 10 trillion dollars. (Thats about $30,000 for every man, woman, child, and illegal in the country.)

Thanks John. :0

Hilzoy. It appears from your link that I was incorrect that the majority of the cuts were from "the military", but that most of the cuts were from the Defense Department which probably formed the vague impression that caused me to ask the question.

Figure 1 shows a dramatic decrease in civilians employeed by the Defense Department, but only a very slight dip in other agencies. This drop in Defense Department employees may or may not be a great thing for the country. But in the context of how a libertarian might look at government agencies, it doesn't offer much encouragement.

Interestingly (both for policy analysis in general and for analysis of Clinton's record) there was an enormous jump in Department of Justice employement due to the drug war. I would gladly scale that back.

If liberals hadn't successfully built a large and effective state that we depend on for many things, including disaster relief and retirement, a mere bad ruler would be much less of a threat to our way of life.

Scratch the "effective" part, and put the sarcasm aside, and I'd say this statement is 100% true.

"A few days ago, Mona wrote a guest post at QandO, arguing that libertarians should think seriously about supporting Democrats rather than Republicans."

I'm thinking from your lack of mention that you've not been reading Jim Henley's endless number of posts about this, starting to some degree a couple of years ago, but increasingly over the past year, and with considerable rapidity in the last few months. (Far, far, far too many posts for me to link to.)

That's pretty much where the center of the discussion on libertarians and Democratic alliance have been from my perspective.

Katherine has been a recent contributor to the discussion; Nell also comments at times here, and frequently at Jim's, including as one of several guest bloggers last week.

Some recent posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for starters.

Good post, hilzoy. I have self-identified as "libertarian" (with the crucial lowercase "l") for well over a decade now, and have always chortled openly -- when not moved to furious anger -- by the folks who, thinking that the nth iteration will finally make it funny, say "Libertarians are just Republicans who smoke pot." Even before I started looking philosophically at libertarianism, I generally voted Democratic, and I came to it from that side. The few Republicans I voted for, I did so for very particular reasons; since coming to libertarianism, I have not voted for a single Republican, because of their complete moral bankruptcy and their being in thrall to the Religious Right. I voted for the LP candidates for President in both 2000 and 2004, and while I don't regret the former, I greatly regret the latter. Only in hindsight, though -- at the time, I genuinely felt Kerry hadn't earned my vote.

For the record I: A) am not gay, B) do not use and have never tried pot, C) had a vasectomy in 1995 and so am completely unworried about abortion, D) have never owned a firearm, am almost militantly antismoking, and aren't worried about Democrats banning my other hobbies (although Hillary pandering to the PTC crowd gets my dander up), and E) hate taxes but generally see them as a necessary evil and would rather fund SS and Medicare, and a sensible defense budget, than a lot of other things I could think of.

Anyway, I know there are other libertarians out there in the same boat I'm in. The ones who Mona -- who has "cancelled her subscription" to Reason about a jillion times, btw -- are trying to convince are basically anti-taxers who don't understand that economic freedom, while a worthy good to be pursued, is meaningless if it increases the sum of human suffering. (Real suffering, not the "I can't buy the 72" plasma instead of the 60" kind.)

PS I'm kind of buzzed, having had a nice full glass of shiraz after a crappy day at work and a tough workout at the gym, so if that made no sense, it's nobody's fault but mine.

PPS My band is actually on the verge of maybe becoming a pretty big regional act. We've been offered opening slots for some major alt-country acts, which means press+recognition+new fans. Keeping my fingers crossed . . .

"Certainly Al Gore, who led the Reinventing Government effort, did not see a lot of payoff for it."

Just for the sake of throwing in a bit of personal data, I spent a chunk of a year circa mid-Nineties) working for an online Reinventing Government project sponsored by the Markle Foundation and run by Crossover Technologies.

I've now read all the comments so far, but don't have anything new to say on the topic I didn't already say at Jim's or elsewhere.

Gary: you're right, and plainly that's a mistake. During some now-forgotten reorganization of my bookmarks, he wound up in 'Blogs 2', which was meant to be somewhere i went a lot, but didn't work out that way. That's about to change. I had no idea that Nell et al were blogging there.

Now, off to reorganize.

Ignorant liberal here, seeking information; are there any poor libertarians?

Rob G: Yes.

Al Gore in the 1990's was a competent technocrat who governed in a fairly centrist manner. In 2006 he's screaming from the rooftops that he's not a centrist anymore. Moreover, the Democratic party faithful (or at least the ones angry enough to get out and make a difference) are trying their best to get rid of the centrist technocrats.

Andrew: personally, I think that we're not getting rid of our technocrats; they've just gotten angry. Gore will never, never, stop being a wonk. He just won't. And if he turns out to have gone far to the left, I'll be amazed. I will be a lot less amazed if he continues to be a full-throated critic of this administration, but that is, of course, not the same.

Jonas: You're going to get what you might consider creepy economic talk whenever a whole lot of people are worse off in absolute as well as relative terms. It's a lot like being a pacifist in a time when there's a serious campaign of aggression against the country.

"Al Gore in the 1990's was a competent technocrat who governed in a fairly centrist manner. In 2006 he's screaming from the rooftops that he's not a centrist anymore."

It may have escaped your attention that between the '90s and now, a certain two-term Presidency has drastically moved the center to the right.

Neo-conservatives often used to say that they were JFK Democrats who stayed where they were (though Scoop Jackson would have been slightly more accurate, and a certain curdling in some was also ignored in these claims) while the Democrats moved leftward, that they were centrists all the time.

Well, same deal for Democrats now; Gore and the rest of us have mostly stayed where they are, and since Bush moved the center far to the right, we're now "on the left" despite not having moved.

HTH.

Gary beat me to the punch. Our political discourse is so warped now that rhetorical vehemence is routinely conflated with policy-preference extremism - I don't have to be that far to the left (and I'm not) to think that W and co have been nothing short of disastrous with the enduring threat of doing worse.

The libertarian/republican alliance has always slightly puzzled me, as from a 'tangible liberty' standpoint (at least from a post-adolescent perspective), the Dems have always been superior. And the more I study certain things, the more I recognize that hard-core Libertarians no jack-all about how their revered markets actually work - the quote about the press being free to anyone who owns one captures my feelings pretty well.

Frank writes: KCinDC- The Reps and the Dems don't quite have the same policy on drugs as Ashcroft and the Bush justice dept felt they could use drug laws to nulify Oregon's assisted suicide law. Google Ashcroft+"assisted suicide" for the details.

This is just another reason for libertarians to dump the GOP; its abandonment of federalism when it comes to their pet, authoritarian issues. I (the Queen of Guest Posts) addressed that issue writing as "Hypatia" last March at Greenwald's.

Seriously, what does the GOP have left to offer the libertarians? Their court appointments are, in my view, usually better (altho if you follow the link you will see me railing against Scalia on one important case), but that is no longer enough.

BTW, I'm squeamish on abortion, find Roe intellectually indefensible, and have no problem with the prospect of abortion returning to the states as an issue. However, I do not, as I wrote in the linked piece, believe the GOP will let it stay there, even if Roe were overturned. They would/are federalizing it via Congress.

The Bush/Frist GOP, and at least some at National Review, are faux federalists.

Phil writes: The ones who Mona -- who has "cancelled her subscription" to Reason about a jillion times, btw -- are trying to convince are basically anti-taxers who don't understand that economic freedom, while a worthy good to be pursued, is meaningless if it increases the sum of human suffering.

That bit about me is as unfair as it is wrong.

Oh, come on. It's a great

Hilzoy--Please note that the vast bulk of reduction in federal civilian employment in the early 1990's came from the Dept. of Defense. This was concurrent with the reduction in the size of the military.

Meant to say, "It's a great running joke. Anyway, you and I both know that you can't spit at Reason without hitting a "libertarian" who wouldn't increase his tax bill by a thin dime even to cure cancer.

Phil writes: "It's a great running joke.

I guess so! I was on sabbatical from there for quite some time, and had not realized the extent to which that is true until I followed your google results.

Bill Niskanen and Starve the Beast ...Brad Delong, including comments.

"...it is (as [Mark] Thoma suggests) premature for anyone (like [Jonathan] Chait) to conclude that Niskanen has the last, or even the most persuasive, word on the topic..." ...Greg Mankiw (Does Mankiw possibly mean that starve-the-beast ain't quite over yet?)

Gov't spending, or increases in spending, in no way refutes the strategy of starve-the-beast. Republicans and libertarians define the "beast" somewhat differently. And in any case, it is the deficit, debt/interest, taxophobia, and yes, war and security spending that starves the beast. The plan is succeeding magnificently.

It took 100-200 years to get civil rights, the New Deal, the Great Society. It may take 100+ years to kill those things, but never imagine that is not the intention, or that it is not possible. Right now, considering the delusion that "Republicans can't cut spending or shrink gov't" shared apparently by people on both sides of the aisle, I consider the demolition of the safety net very likely.

We are likely heading into a recession or slowdown. Gov't expenditures up, revenues down, dollar falls, interest rate increases, deficit skyrockets...what happens? Raise taxes in a recession? Keynesian spending?

They are engineering a catastrophe, and there will be no choice but to slash social spending.

Agree with McManus pretty much, but Frank and Jonas had good comments, too.

On the disaster relief sarcasm, hey, I breath sarcasm, so go for it, but let me say that it is not government's or government's fault primarily that a good portion of the so-called American population either hates the government or believes they should rip it off at every turn, or both, depending on who they vote for.

Better controls and better technology to thwart the dumbasses. Fine.

Wait, it's human nature to do so, you say, which is why limited government is the answer. Odd how no one on this thread is an admitted example of such human nature; indeed, we seem to be exempt from the downside of human nature.

Now run off and have those tattoos removed and quit paying for your divorces through F.E.M.A. I'm sorry; that wasn't you guys. But you're pretty sure it was the neighbors.

I would agree that a good portion of the American public are thieving, lying, low filth. Too bad their government is too good for them.

I'm reasonably sure that the result of the catastrophic Great Depression was not slashing social spending.

In my observation, libertarians are people who don't believe that humans are social animals. They do not want to care about other people and they do not want other people to care about them. This at least is more honest than conservatives, who want to be cared for without being caring.

Presumably, she believes this not because she wants poor people to have untreated illnesses; I imagine that if libertarians could cure all poor people's illnesses by waving a magic wand, they would.

It's not exactly that they want poor people to have untreated illnesses, it's that they don't believe anyone should expect something (like medicine) they haven't earned, preferably in the marketplace. They certainly don't believe in magic wands -- you can't get something for nothing, everyone's got to stand on their own two feet, and if all they have is stumps, well, libertarians never told you life is *fair*, did they? So if poor people have to die to prove that life is unfair, that's just reality, not the fault of libertarians.

Bye the bye or is that by the by:

"Are there any poor libertarians?"

Sure. But they like it. They eat gruel and believe they deserve it because they didn't invent Velcro or make a new kind of portable shredded wheat. Plus they want to walk into Board of Education meetings in their bare feet carrying a Kalishnikov, you know, in case anyone else, like a teacher, might be carrying one too.

They have principles. Some of them are still underwater in New Orleans. F.E.M.A??!! God, honey, head for the attic!

I think a couple of them are up for sentencing in the Enron deal.

Who can deal with people like that?

John: "They have principles. Some of them are still underwater in New Orleans. F.E.M.A??!! God, honey, head for the attic!"

I am reminded of one of the reasons I can't help liking Michael Moore, despite disagreeing with him about, oh, Afghanistan and stuff. Namely:

Back when he had an actual TV show, he did a hilarious piece in which he covered one of Newt Gingrich's speeches in his district in GA, all about cutting back on wasteful government spending (the crowd cheered wildly), then investigated some of the wasteful government spending in Newt's own district, and then went around trying to convince people not to use it.

Examples: Michael Moore stands by a highway on-ramp, yelling through a bullhorn at passing drivers: "Don't use this highway! It was recently repaired using wasteful government spending!" Michael Moore stands outside some government contractor's office building, trying to convince its employees to quit their jobs in order to cut back on wasteful government spending.

The best one: Michael Moore discovers that Newt Gingrich has gotten a contract for Cobb COunty GA for training the coast guard. He corners Gingrich at some parade and asks him about it. Gingrich says something absurd about how necessary the Coast Guard is in Cobb County. Moore says: But Congressman, you're landlocked!

It was very funny.

By the way, Phil, the news on the band is great.

Keep it up. Any radio play?

"I'm reasonably sure that the result of the catastrophic Great Depression was not slashing social spending."

There are significant political differences between 1932-36 and our current era that make the comparison less useful. And FDR had to bribe the South with pork(TVA...good pork) after 1934 in order to minimize resistance.

The South was strongly Democratic in the 1930s;is strongly Republican today. The party ID, then as now, in the South largely breaks along racial lines. I cannot foresee circumstances in which Texas or Georgia would send a liberal Democratic delegation to Congress. This creates a solid base of one third of America, maybe effectively 1/2 with the small state advantages, that will remain conservative.

Other differences from the 30s is the debt and interest payments; 50 years of a progressive/labor or leftist movement(Eugene Debs for President!) with a clearly defined well-considered agenda as opposed to the recent thirty years of taxophobia and consistent propaganda against gov't spending; a post WWII tradition, almost default position of internationalism and huge defense spending (Billy Mitchell couldn't get an air force).

Etc.

"It was very funny."

Well, I don't buy the model of government being operated like a family sitting around the kitchen teraring out their hair about whether to replace the gutters or get the kid the kidney transplant -- or the model of the businessman seeking profit -- not that there is anything wrong with those models.

We call govenment "government" because it's not a family and it's not a business.

But it is funny. What's wrong with that?


In my observation, libertarians are people who don't believe that humans are social animals. They do not want to care about other people and they do not want other people to care about them.

You remind me that I've been meaning to comment that in my experience, liberals are collectivists -- nay, borderline communists -- who destroy all rights of the individual. They love humanity in general, but hate virtually all individuals in particular.

Gosh, but this is fun! This ignorant and invidious caricaturing of people's ideological postures based on mindless and uninformed prejudice. Why, I'll bet if we keep it up we can all out-Coulter Coulter. And won't that add to the quality of the discussion around here.

Wait a minute..... if I'm like Michael Moore.... then I must be like.... that guy who directed JFK. Which means I'm, gulp, like Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin....
oh my God, I'm wearing a short skirt and eye-gouging 911 widows on talkshows... and I'm unpatriotic AND a traitor ...!!

Well, on the other hand, I'm a well-rounded and completely non-partisan demagogue.

Vacation beckons.

It seems that most libertarian Republicans hide their right-wing statism behind the rhetoric of anti-statism.

It's not exactly that [libertarians] want poor people to have untreated illnesses, it's that they don't believe anyone should expect something (like medicine) they haven't earned, preferably in the marketplace. They certainly don't believe in magic wands -- you can't get something for nothing, everyone's got to stand on their own two feet, and if all they have is stumps, well, libertarians never told you life is *fair*, did they? So if poor people have to die to prove that life is unfair, that's just reality, not the fault of libertarians.

Well, but of course. We libertarians spend nary a moment pondering on the healthcare needs of Americans...oh, wait.

Now you may disagree with the preliminary synapsis at that page, and the links it provides, but you cannot argue we don't offer intelligent policy prescriptions for meeting the health care problem.

But none of this really matters; what matters is whether and to what extent we libertarians can or should be voting for Democrats, given current conditions on the political ground. A respectful and informed discussion of our ideological posture is most likely to draw more of us into the Dem voting bloc.

Kos certainly seems to get that.

I have voted down-ticket Libertarian more often than not;Texas is unusual in its strong Libertarian slate. Mostly on the social and ACLU platform than the economic agenda, not being fond of Democratic "identity politics".

"They do not want to care about other people and they do not want other people to care about them."

I presume that libertarians share with conservatives the idea that government programs hinder consensual contractual community formation and private cooperative service sectors.

A "Hobbesian" libertarian would be a weird duck indeed. In general, I consider them overly optimistic and idealistic about human nature, not cynical and misanthropic.

"It's not exactly that they want poor people to have untreated illnesses, it's that they don't believe anyone should expect something (like medicine) they haven't earned, preferably in the marketplace."

I believe you're confusing "libertarians" with "Randites."

I'm fairly sure, actually. Randites are libertarians, of a particular and pecular sort, but certainly not all libertarians are Randites.

That said, the more extreme libertarians are a particularly annoying bunch.

But so are any extreme ideologues of any sort.

The libertarians are only peculiar insofar as they have certain particular tropes of believe and behavior. But various flavors of extremist communists are no less fanatic or peculiar in their own way.

I could name a few other ideologies, but people would, I'm cynically afraid, be apt to think I was criticizing the moderates for the flaws of the fewer extremists, so I shall be cowardly and not.

"The libertarians are only peculiar insofar as they have certain particular tropes of believe and behavior."

Sorry, that was supposed to have the modifier "extremist" before "libertarians."

My point was that there are a considerable number of perfectly reasonable libertarians.

Bush moved the center far to the right

I have no idea what you mean by this, Gary. Given that Bush is by NO means conservative, politically, I'd guess that it means he's made center-right politics look like far-right politics to liberals, but I'm just guessing.

So I'm back to being confused.

Mona, I respect you and if you vote for Democrats in 2006 and 2008 I will fall in love with you. Which is odd for a liberal who hates individuals, as you say, and loves the human race. Except that I hate the human race, which is what got Stalin in trouble..but never mind that.

Thing is, my even more liberal wife will hate you, the individual, if I fall in love with you for whatever reason, which is odd because she likes everyone, even me and the human race. Which is also what got Stalin in trouble.

Go figure.

Gary Farber writes:
I believe you're confusing "libertarians" with "Randites."

I'm fairly sure, actually. Randites are libertarians, of a particular and pecular sort, but certainly not all libertarians are Randites.

Randroids are not libertarians, as most of the former will be the first to inform you in tones of highest dudgeon. Their Charismatic Leader, now deceased, decreed libertarians immoral and Rand thoroughly rejected the label for herself. She, you see, founded a full-service moral philosophy to live by that, as a by-product, dictated the correct political views. Her philosophy was denominated Objectivism, and its adherents are like most religionists (tho atheism is mandatory); there are schisms, purges and sects. Anyone espousing altruism is a heretic in the Objectivist faith.

Most libertarians, while we usually have read Rand, don't embrace Objectivism. Myself, I admire F.A. Hayek, and would say 90% of his writing reflects my own views. "I am not now and have never been an Objectivist..."

Gary:

It's quite possible that I *am* confusing libertarians (in general) with Randroids, because all the people I knew in my formative years who called themselves "libertarian" were, in fact, Randroids.

I am basing my opinions about libertarians not on the Libertarian Party nor even the Cato Institute, but on conversations I've had with self-identified libertarians over the years. And on Heinlein.

Mona:

From my preliminary inspection, the links at the Cato site address "the healthcare needs of Americans" only if you don't include "poor people" as Americans.

It's just possible *holds fingers a teeny bit apart to illustrate* that I'm deliberately stating my opinions of libertarianism rather provocatively.

From the "can we be political bedfellows?" POV (down, boys! down!), the question for me is, what is the *emotional* core of libertarianism? Because I think people vote their feelings far more often than they vote for policies.

The emotional core of conservatism IMHO is "things shouldn't have to change" -- and politically, "things" means "the kind of people who have power". So to my mind Bush is the *perfect* conservative, because he's the perfect plutocrat and wealth is where our power is. "Social conservatives" mostly want gender hierarchies to stay put, dammit, which a bunch of other conservatives cling to racial hierarchies.

The libertarian emotion, as far as I can tell from the outside, is "stop ordering me around! I'll help the people I want to help, but what's mine is mine!" I don't know how this can mesh with the Democratic/progressive feeling that "we're all in this together."

"I am basing my opinions about libertarians not on the Libertarian Party nor even the Cato Institute, but on conversations I've had with self-identified libertarians over the years."

Yes, I'm familiar with the type, ever since I went to my first Lunacon in 1973, and ran into Samuel Edward Konkin the Thud, and his friends.

But like I said: all libertarians are not Randroids, and are not all obnoxious, self-centered, belligerent, I'm-all-right-Jack, types; there are plenty of Jim Henleys, Radley Balkos, Julian Sanchezes, Walter-in-Denvers, etc., in type, if not as actual clone duplicates, which is probably for the best.

(Hmm, a clone army of libertarian anarchists: there's an idea for a story.)

Similarly, not all leftists are Ted Ralls, or, on the downside, not all liberals are Hilzoy (or the eminently reasonable me). :-)

(It would be a distraction to discuss Heinlein, who tends to be more misinterpreted than not, and of whom a vast number of people commonly make the elementary error of confusing the voice of his characters with the beliefs of the author, and whose views on many matters significantly shifted over the decades. (See my disorganized, off-the-cuff, remarks in the comments to this post, as well as the post, for my last touching on this, except that, as I said, that would be a distraction.)

"Given that Bush is by NO means conservative...."

Yeah, well, that's a debate with a lot of ins and outs. This wasn't the majority view of conservatives in 2000-2002, was it?

But like it or not, the guy who runs as a conservative, is elected as a conservative, and is the head of his party, who is surrounded by conservative advisors, gets to have more of a say in defining what a contemporary conservative is than looking to, say, someone like Milton Friedman or Hayek, or Buckley, or Goldwater, or whomever you'd prefer to use as a definitional "conservative."

He was the guy conservatives annointed and celebrated. You don't like the results? World's tiniest violin plays.

"...'d guess that it means he's made center-right politics look like far-right politics to liberals, but I'm just guessing."

Well, we're now in a country where the rulers proceed on the basis that they can torture at will, lock up Americans without warrants or probable cause or trials forever, run secret prison camps, eavesdrop at will, and ignore Congress, ignore the Courts.

And they were elected as conservatism.

So, defacto, that's conservatism today. In practice. Which matters a heck of a lot more than theory.

Does that mean it sucks to be a conservative today?

Well, guess y'all have to work for a couple of decades to seize back conservatism, and elect a new crew who act under a different set of practices. More power to you on that project, and get back to us when it's done, please.

(This, after all, is the sort of thing conservatives, in mirror form, have been saying since, well, I'd say FDR, but really we can keep going back to at least the Glorious Revolution of 1666, I think.)

Dr. Science: "I don't know how this can mesh with the Democratic/progressive feeling that 'we're all in this together.'"

It definitely won't "mesh." Don't try. Alliances of convenience for some time to come, though, formed over specific areas of great import to both, however, may be possible.

Elimination of the War On Some Drugs, restoration of the rule of law, respect for civil liberties and civil rights and the Bill of Rights (even including the Second Amendment), a frowning on torture, a focus on competency rather than ideology, a turn away from the nanny state: those are a few areas to reach some agreement on.

Wierd. I still have no idea what you meant by "Bush moved the center far to the right", even after all that. Maybe sleep will help. Probably more explanation would be in order, and less of how much it must suck to be a conservative these days, but that's probably the sleep deprivation speaking.

"Bush moved the center far to the right"

I think it means they think that the Medicare Drug benefit is far-right. ;)

My take is that after some threshold, more taxes and more regulation makes me less free. In foreign policy, allowing Cuba, China and so on to determine that human rights abuses are primarily the fault of the US and not for instance North Korea (look at Human Rights Watch and compare the number of pages for NK versus US), makes people less free. Putting the distribution of education, health care, even food and housing into the gands of a centralized government makes people less free. Making laws prohibiting smoking, fast foods, etc, make me less free.

Primary education and education in general (a huge part of state and local govt) seeks to eliminate competition and remove conservatives from the system (because "all conservatives are stupid" according to J S Mill).

I, being stupid, will side with the stupid and free types, versus the enlightened, "regulating you for your own good" types.

"I think it means they think that the Medicare Drug benefit is far-right."

Only in the sense that a liberal wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. Not with its suck-up approach to Big Pharm by its refusal to allow for Medicare to negotiate/bargin for a good price; not with its absurd "doughnut hole"; not with the lies to Congress made to sell it to the Republicans (not the Democrats, who largely didn't vote for it).

Sorry, can't stick us with this turkey: it's a Republican piece of offal.

And, yeah, it was produced as a prime example of "compassionate conservatism."

So, yeah, it's a product of the right. Indisputably.

Inconvenient as that may be.

I don't count myself as a Libertarian. But it seems to me that although slightly misguided, libertarianism is based on absolutism and idealism in a positive sense - you are not allowed to restrict other's rights, no matter how much you think could be gained by it.
From this, I hope and suspect that Libertarians are in favour of acting according to their beliefs, and be complicit in actions that they regard as immoral (as opposed to merely stupid). in brief, they should vote for their own party, no matter how pointless it seems.

Sebastian,

"I think it means they think that the Medicare Drug benefit is far-right."

What Gary said, plus please examine the party affiliations of the persons who voted for it. House Republicans 204-25 in favor, Democrats 16-189 against. Similar patterns in the Senate.

I'm a small government liberal, which ought to make me a libertarian except that I reject the absolutist property rights position most libertarians take. I believe liberals must support small government for the simple reason that when regulations (and especially tax laws) become so complex that compliance requires employing a specialist the government is effectively taxing citizenship - a regressive tax if ever there was one. In addition, gaming the regulations becomes an industry itself, but one that produces no net benefit to the public, and often produces net harm.

Ah, a reason not to like Bill Nelson. So, should I vote for Kathleen Harris after all (assuming she makes it that far, or hasn't already dropped out of the race. Frankly, I'd stopped paying attention because it was irrelevant), given that Nelson voted Yea?

Ideologically, it's difficult to see how this sort of thing could have ever attached itself to the Right (or vice versa), but recent history's been full of such bafflements.

About whether Bush shifted discourse to the right: I tend to dislike the left-right continuum in any number of ways. However, imagine a continuum running from, oh, Marxists on one side (very left!) through(in order) me, von, you (Slarti), Seb, and on to Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, David Duke, and eventually the Montana Militia and Tim McVeigh.

As Gary noted in another thread, Marxists are in some sense that I recognize "to the left of" liberals, but they are absolutely not "like liberals, only more extreme". They are very, very different. Likewise, insofar as 'conservatism' is now a recognizable political philosophy, Bush is plainly way right, but arguably not a conservative, in certain key respects.

Bush has moved discourse to the right in the sense that positions, like privatizing Social Security, that used to be off in right-wing think-tank fantasyland are now taken seriously, while some left-wing positions that used to be taken seriously are now seen as beyond the pale, and some previously centrist positions (like support for international institutions and balancing the budget) are now seen as the province of the left.

One sign of this is that, as I noted somewhere recently, the reality-based wonks are mostly Democrats these days. Why? Because all the reality-based wonky positions have become Democratic ones, the GOP having abandoned them. (Example: sane economic policy.)

However, imagine a continuum running from, oh, Marxists on one side (very left!) through(in order) me, von, you (Slarti), Seb, and on to Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, David Duke, and eventually the Montana Militia and Tim McVeigh.

You forgot Hitler!

Yeah, I'm starting to hate the 1-D continuum as well. I kind of like the 2-D formulation we've seen in some of the internet quizzes, except that I think a vertical axis (which, just as a notion to consider, I'll call the Invective Index) might be appropriate as well. I think that people would care a great deal less about the Ann Coulters and Bill O'Reillys of this world if they weren't, for example, busily out there making everyone who disagrees with them out to be actively evil.

Which reminds me of some conversations I've had here, sometimes, but thankfully these occasions are fairly rare.

I think pooh made the point best:

Our political discourse is so warped now that rhetorical vehemence is routinely conflated with policy-preference extremism - I don't have to be that far to the left (and I'm not) to think that W and co have been nothing short of disastrous with the enduring threat of doing worse.

The fact that there are many very publicly angry liberals out there seems to be confused with the claim that there are very many publicly radical liberals out there. While both may be true, it isn't because they refer to the same set of people.

I have seen wonky sorts of people get very very angry about policy without being extreme. Usually, it is the result of some extremely non-wonky individual with loads of power and no concern for the responsibility that comes with that power coming in and doing everything particularly poorly.

What is worse is when this occurs not because the new person has profoundly different views on substance, but because they just can't be bothered to care enough about the details to at least hire someone wonky and trust their decision. This sort of thing is like a giant slap in the face to those that do care and tends to get them pretty riled up in a hurry.

IMHO, this is a pretty nice summary of the current "conservative" leadership, about which I agree with Gary. If it calls itself a conservative, is elected twice as the champion of conservatives, and keeps getting support, no matter how badly he screws up, from the conservative base, then he is a conservative, for whatever value that term currently holds.

(As an interesting side note, this occurs to me as being the sort of thing that led to middle management being ridiculed for years and gave Dilbert its great success. Amusingly enough, when I see Bush from now on out, I think my brain will always insert stupid triangles of hair on both sides of his head and at least chuckle as I wince at his utter incompetence.)

"What Gary said, plus please examine the party affiliations of the persons who voted for it. House Republicans 204-25 in favor, Democrats 16-189 against. Similar patterns in the Senate."

Sure, which is precisely why calling it a modal shift to the right is so silly. Throwing up a large, ill-thought out social program that goes immediately over budget and doesn't remotely fix the problems it is supposed to address used to be the province of the liberal wing of US politics. The fact that large number of Republicans voted for it can't be described as a shift to the right--at least not from the perspective of Republicans in the 1980s or 1990s. The fact that Republicans were dicussing funding a huge new Medicare program (without even trying to fix the huge old program) at all represents a huge shift to the left if you are going to insist on "shift to the X" rhetoric. I think the reality of Republican politics is more of an ooze to the stupid than a right-left shift. People really do want lower taxes and more services. Current Republican leaders are pandering to that fact even though the desires tend to conflict with each other. That is a shift to BAD policy, but it isn't a shift to the right. It is a shift to the right on taxes and a shift to the left on social spending. (Which is a really horrific combination).

Slarti,

"Ah, a reason not to like Bill Nelson. So, should I vote for Kathleen Harris after all (assuming she makes it that far, or hasn't already dropped out of the race. Frankly, I'd stopped paying attention because it was irrelevant), given that Nelson voted Yea?"

Wrong Nelson. Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted Yea. Bill Nelson of Florida voted Nay.

Sebastian,

You seem to falling into the Randy Barnett school of thought that says liberals' primary goal is to increase government spending. If that were the case, the Medicare prescription drug plan would have received a majority of Democratic support. Given that it did not, I think you need to re-think your assumptions.

Well, don't I look stupid?

On the bright side, though, I can stop thinking about Kathleen Harris again. Nice to know that Bill didn't do something that stupid, as I kind of like the guy.

Randroids are not libertarians, as most of the former will be the first to inform you in tones of highest dudgeon.

Mona,

Could you elaborate a bit? My impression has been that Randites are extreme libertarians, but that even more moderate libertarians have some admiration for her ideas. Some even claim she's a great novelist. I don't follow all this closely, so there may well be schisms and feuds of which I am unaware, but from reading some econ blogs I hardly get the idea that these groups are seriously at odds. I'm not arguing, just asking for a little more explanation.

I'm thinking along the same lines as Sebastian, but what's needed is consideration of yet another political dimension, which I'm going to refer to as the Stupid Axis for want of a better term.

Sebastian- Of course it can be described as a shift to the right. The perscription drug bill was all about helping out big corporations. The Republicans have become the party of national greatness conservatives.

John- You said,"Wait, it's human nature to do so, you say, which is why limited government is the answer. Odd how no one on this thread is an admitted example of such human nature; indeed, we seem to be exempt from the downside of human nature."

and "I would agree that a good portion of the American public are thieving, lying, low filth. Too bad their government is too good for them."

I would accuse you of spying on me, but I'm sure you are too good for that, but I will admit to being thieving, lying, low filth. What I don't understand is that you haven't noticed that the Republican party is run theiving, lying, low filth, and is in the process of giving America the government that they deserve.

Understanding modern "conservatism" has become very difficult for someone like me who demands at least some connection of the word to Burje and Kirk and some way to distinguish it from libertarianism or liberalism.

If the Medicare D bill is seen as pork for insurance and drug companies with a patina of benefits for the needy, as constituent service it might be an ordinary Republican or conservative bill. I don't know what a congressman is suppose to do if not constituent service. I suppose we could consider those who voted for it conservatives if we assume the votes were in bad faith or insincere because of leadership coercion, which is my impression. But a certain degree of authoritarianism or acceptance of heirarchal structures is, in my understanding, an essential element of Burkean conservatism.

insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

When will you learn? The Dems job is to LOSE. That's why they have no position on anything. The Dems will NEVER endorse ending the war because their principal contributors (financial and defense interests) want the war to continue.

Assuming there IS an election in 2008 (my money says no) Hillary Clinton will do what any good dem does best ....LOSE. Her fence sitting and continuing efforts to please everyone just make it plainly obvious how big a whore she is.

What is needed is for progressives, TRUE progressives, to form a third party and leave the corporate-offered choice of Dems versus Repugnankins in the dirt where it belongs.

The oligarchy fear a successful grassroots political party more than poverty.

The dems=Lucy to your eternal Charley Brown.

If you want to look at shifts "to the X" in politics I would look at it like this.

In the 1980s I would characterize the message of the Republican Party as: WE WANT TO LOWER YOUR TAXES and make large cuts in government programs. The message of the Democratic Party was: WE WANT TO HAVE THE GOVERNMENT DO MORE STUFF FOR YOU and raise taxes quite a bit to pay for it. (I would have made the font much smaller for the second part of both but it is tough to do in comments)

There have been a handful of members of either party willing to focus on the necessary small font side of their respective policies, but for the most part each party likes to focus on the bolded part. There have been brief moments where one party was willing to act to dramatically implement the small font side of their respective policies, but for the most part they like to make dramatic moves on the bolded part.

What has happened is that the general public has 'shifted' toward the bolded messages of both parties. As an overall shift, this is much worse than embracing the side that you don't like (if you are liberal, embracing the conservative argument would lead to better economic health than the combined one, if you are conservative, embracing the liberal argument would lead to better economic health than the combined one.)

So the 'center' has shifted to the right and left--toward both of the bolded positions. Instead of producing a compromise middle it has done so in a way to create a schizophrenic 'both'. In many ways it maps onto the credit card binge--the government really is reflecting the character of the people.

I think marblex's comment provides a starting point on the difference between liberals and leftists.

Again, many right-wingers on this site confuse being a right-wing big government type (Hayek called it statism) with anti-statism.

Most right-Wingers could careless about the size and intrusion of the federal government...as long as it is the right-wing elite doing the intruding and growing.

The wars in the middle-east and the growing American state by right-wingers was predictable.

America’s right-wingers are anti-state when it is being run by liberals. (Much like most fascists).

Ah, I see Sebastian's proposing the bimodal-distribution model of current politics. Interesting notion, Sebastian.

Bernard Yamatov asksMona,

Could you elaborate a bit? My impression has been that Randites are extreme libertarians, but that even more moderate libertarians have some admiration for her ideas. Some even claim she's a great novelist. I don't follow all this closely, so there may well be schisms and feuds of which I am unaware, but from reading some econ blogs I hardly get the idea that these groups are seriously at odds.

Reason is the most significant and respected libertarian magazine today. It’s authors appear in the WSJ, on CNN and Fox, and pretty much all over. Some are syndicated columnists, like Jacob Sullum and Cathy Young.

Cathy Young wrote of http://www.reason.com/0503/fe.cy.ayn.shtml>Rand(my emphasis):

Politically, too, Rand is an outsider: Liberals shrink from her defiant pro-capitalist stance, conservatives from her militant atheism, and conservatives and liberals alike from her individualism. Libertarianism, the movement most closely connected to Rand’s ideas, is less an offspring than a rebel stepchild. In her insistence that political philosophy must be based on a proper epistemology, she rejected the libertarian movement, which embraced a wide variety of reasons for advocating free markets and free minds, as among her enemies.

Excerpt from a Reason interview with Nobel Prize-winning libertarian Milton Friedman addressing http://www.reason.com/9506/FRIEDMAN.jun.shtml>Rand:

I'm sure if I had been in New York, I would have met her. It was not because of any objection on my part. I think she was a fascinating woman and had a great influence. As I always have said, she had an extremely good influence on all those who did not become Randians. But if they became Randians, they were hopeless….That's primarily because I deliberately kept from getting involved in the Libertarian Party affairs; partly because I always thought Murray, like Rand, was a cult builder, and a dogmatist.

Here you can see in comments a gaggle of libertarians at Reason’s blog dissing http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2006/03/new_at_reason_1046.shtml>Rand

And, as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivist_philosophy> wiki says:

Ayn Rand herself despised libertarianism.

If you read the wiki entry on Rand and Objectivism, you’ll see that very few people are likely to buy into the cult of Rand. I don’t know any Reason writers or authors who do(which doesn’t mean there aren’t any), and only one or two Randians came forward in comments at the Hit ‘n Run blog in my reasonably heavy experience of participating there.

Mona, the "full-service" line made me laugh out loud.

Bernard: As Mona says, Rand despised the notion of a politics that wasn't organically connected to an epistemology (and an aesthetics, and everything else). So even if an Objectivist and a libertarian would end up favoring exactly the same measures for years on end, the libertarian would still be objectively wrong for having gotten there the wrong way. Any similarity to (say) the Stalinist treatment of other anti-fascists in the '30s is left as an exercise for the reader.

I think Dr. Science's talking about the emotional grounding of politics is very important, and very useful. Liberalism and conservativism in their various flavors both include the idea of you as an individual having duties and responsibilities to the community, things that you are positively constrained to do (or refrain from doing), no matter how much they might suit you as an individual. Libertarianism, I think, says that anything beyond respecting people's negative rights (that is, leaving them alone - don't kill them, don't rob them, and so on) is either commerce or gift. Both are voluntary transactions, not owed but chosen. To libertarians, the whole isn't real in the way individuals are; it's useful and illuminating to speak about the sum total of individual experiences, but it's a sum, nothing more.

I don't think this a gap one crosses by logic. People get to a view by their experiences, by their responses to those who hold this view or that, by reflecting on what they've experienced and learned. Sometimes people get the creeping sensation that there's a gap between what the evidence actually says and what they feel; sometimes they have moments in which an alternative feels so compelling that they make a big switch and then work out the reasons for it later; sometimes they're persuaded piecemeal in reappraisals. And sometimes they don't change much. :)

I've argued elsewhere that the sensible approach for someone whose fundamental vision is not served anywhere in the mainstream - which would include Greens and socialists and such on the left, along with libertarians and a bunch of others - is to look for vectors and apply triage. If candidate A might slow a particular rush toward the abyss (or even point in the right way a bit), favor A over B. And when there's a crisis, do what you can to derail it and get back to business as usual. Don't expect to find a lasting alliance; just look for opportunities to help tilt things and enjoy them when you get them.

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